Blue Bombers' 713 man sets sights on 2nd effort

July 27, 1994|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,Sun Staff Writer

Matt Dunigan did it once; he can do it again.

Pass for 713 yards? The mind recoils at the possibility; the senses numb. Statisticians get writer's cramp at the thought.

"I think it's a goal to reach for now," the quarterback for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers said yesterday from Manitoba. "I've done it once. Why not do it again?"

Dunigan did it two weeks ago, when he torched the Edmonton Eskimos for 33 completions worth a Canadian Football League record 713 yards and five touchdowns in a 50-35 Winnipeg victory.

The Baltimore CFLs (2-1) hope he doesn't do it tomorrow night when they visit Winnipeg Stadium with a chance to stretch their lead over the Bombers (1-2) in the CFL Eastern Division.

Baltimore coach Don Matthews knows all about Dunigan. He coached him in Toronto with the Argonauts in 1990.

"Dunigan is an extremely mobile, accurate passer, with a great understanding of the game," Matthews said.

"Not many people are capable of throwing for 700 yards if the other team went to the locker room."

In his 12th CFL season, the native of Lakewood, Ohio, and the product of Louisiana Tech has carved his own niche in football.

Dunigan ranks fourth on the CFL's all-time passing chart with 34,638 yards -- just 192 behind third-place Dieter Brock. He could get that with a good half against Baltimore.

He is third in career touchdowns with 232, and 36 of those came last year, when he wiped out Tom Clements' team record in Winnipeg.

But nothing gave Dunigan greater fame than the 713 game on July 14, when he unloaded touchdown passes covering 55, 33, 54, 88 and 35 yards. He was quickly bombarded with interview requests from across North America.

It was Dunigan rediscovered. What interviewers found, though, was a 33-year-old quarterback quite content with his lot in Canadian life. The urge to play in the United States has long since faded.

"I don't play for everybody else," he said. "I play for myself, because I love the game. It was a choice I made a long time ago. I've been fulfilled ever since I came up here.

"As far as the States, maybe in my younger years I thought I wanted to come down. But the longer I played up here, the more I fell in love with Canada. I'd much rather play this game over the NFL any day."

At 5 feet 11, the 200-pound Dunigan was a marginal NFL quarterback at best. With his maneuverability and his arm, he was the perfect CFL quarterback. His record game came nine months after he ruptured his right Achilles' tendon.

"He's such a tremendous competitor," said Baltimore rush end O. J. Brigance, "there's nothing on the field he doesn't think he can do."

Two weeks after Baltimore had to defend against Calgary's Doug Flutie, Dunigan presents a different challenge.

"Dunigan may try to beat you more with brute force or brute strength," Brigance said. "He's a lot stronger than Flutie is, and he can stand in the pocket and take a hit a lot easier than Flutie would.

"Dunigan will try to sit in the pocket and make it happen. If it doesn't happen, he doesn't mind getting out on the perimeter, either."

Last week was Flutie's week, though. He threw for 418 yards and six touchdowns as the Stampeders scalded Winnipeg, 58-19, in Calgary.

"We were down 50-15 at halftime," Dunigan said. "It kind of screws up your game plan when you're 35 down at the half.

"But it makes us work harder. If the guys were feeling good last week, they were feeling real bad this week. It was a wake-up call."

Dunigan knows what to expect from his old coach.

"In Toronto, we called it Club Matthews," he said. "He runs a tight ship and gives you enough rope to hang yourself. He's a great motivator and communicator. He knows what buttons to push.

"He has such a good defensive mind. We expect a lot of heat. We've got our hands full preparing for a pressure team."

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